• Tony Igele

Senate C’ttee to withdraw 1999 Constitutions in circulation

ABUJA – Senate of the Federal Republic yesterday, mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to liaise with the National Judicial Council, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Law Reform Commission, to constitute a Law Review Committee to withdraw copies of different versions of the 1999 Constitution currently in circulation for authentic version to be relaunched.

It also passed a resolution directing the Federal Printing Press for “the printing and distribution of the authentic, consolidated Constitution of the Federation with the different alterations embedded where they belong to make the Constitution one whole document to guide the generality of the Nigerian populace and the international community”.

The resolutions followed a motion by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North), in which he raised alarm over circulation of different versions of the 1999 Constitution.

Sen. Utazi in his motion titled: “Harmonising the different versions and copies of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole”, noted that since 1999, the Constitution has successfully gone through three alterations, one in July 2010; another in November 2010 and the last in March 2011 respectively.

He explained that in each case, various provisions were amended to bring them in conformity with contemporary democratic practice and realities.

According to him, these alterations were being printed and circulated as separate provisions and that there has not been an attempt to embed and graft them into the Constitution as one document.

He therefore expressed worry that “there are different versions of the original 1999 Constitution and of the three alterations, with various copies in circulation”, affirming that “the Constitution is the heart-beat of the nation and its provisions should not be subjected to the caprices of printers or allowed to have different words and structure”.

Utazi further noted that in some versions, Sections 84 ends with sub-section (6), while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with sub-section (7), while the first alteration has provided for sub-section (8) of Section 84.

He added that this could also be true of Section 66(1)(h), which was deleted by Section 2 of the First Alteration Act, but which some versions of the Constitution still retain.

“There are many other mix-ups and this creates confusion for lawyers, judges, Law students, other practitioners, legislators at the various levels, those who consult our Constitution to determine the state of the law, and the general public”.

“The existence of various versions of the Constitution makes it an unreliable source of law, whittles down its forces as the fundamental authority for all laws in Nigeria and does not make for certainty of its provisions, dilutes its potency in the hierarchy of laws and makes it susceptible to misinterpretation by mischief makers who may want to take advantage of the situation”, he added.

In his ruling, the Senate President Bukola Saraki, mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to urgently liaise with relevant organs of government to ensure that the different versions and copies of the Constitution in circulation are harmonized into one authentic document.

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